As the media industry moves online there has been consolidation in the market and a move away from traditional publishing methods. The industry faces numerous challenges around maintaining a profitable business and hard copy sales when the trend is towards online publications, and new issues arising from online publishing and downloads, including rights clearance from freelance journalists.
There is a reduction in space needed for publishing companies given the decrease in volume of printed materials, decrease in storage needed, and reduction in headcount. Meanwhile, high profile infringement cases continue, such as the Da Vinci code case, and M&A activity is increasing as big publishers look to offload smaller, less profitable portfolios and merge or enter joint ventures with suitable partners.
The value of IP from characters developed in books is increasingly being exploited for commercial gain and many have been turned into highly successful film franchises, particularly in the children’s sector. As a result, we have seen these changes reflected in the type of legal advice required to assist publishing companies as they seek to protect and develop their businesses.
We are adept at advising publishers on trade mark issues; online infringements issues; copyright protection and the EU Commission review of the fair dealing provisions; ensuring their trade mark portfolios are not just fully protected but are also being exploited to their potential as a revenue stream; and advising on their position when authors sell the film rights to their works.
We have also advised clients on the issues arising from Google’s digitisation of literary works and the copyright position in relation to thumbnails. We continue to advise on traditional publishing arrangements such as publishers, contributors and authors’ agreements and the commercial and legal issues relating to these arrangements.
Notable deals / highlights
- Managed the whole brands portfolio for a leading publisher, including advising on online infringement of the copyright in its articles by a competitor and advising in respect of an online passing-off case.
- Provided insolvency and competition law advice to a large magazine publisher on its acquisition of a competitor business out of administration.
- Advised a leading publishing house on the acquisition of a 144-year-old publishing company, the publisher of a famous cricket almanac.
- Represented an author in a trade mark dispute concerning the title of an eponymous character appearing in a series of books, the film rights of which had been acquired by a film company. The proceedings were settled amicably before trial.